Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers takes a ‘spiritual journey’

By Lisa Flynn |

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Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers (Photo: David Zentz)

Anne Akiko Meyers is one of today’s most in-demand violinists. She keeps alive the favorites of the repertoire, and she is also deeply committed to the music of living composers. That passion is often reflected in her popular recordings, with more than 30 to date. Meyers has released a new album titled Mirror in Mirror, which she considers one of her most personal projects. She calls it a “spiritual journey” through a program of commissions and arrangements by Philip Glass, John Corigliano, Jakub Ciupiński, and Morten Lauridsen, alongside works by Arvo Pärt and Maurice Ravel.

Meyers’ work with today’s composers has been a source of great inspiration. “To be able to access their minds and hear from their mouths how they want their piece performed, or how they hear it in their hearts, just gives me so much to work with,” Meyers shares. Throughout her career, she has stressed how music has the power to move people, regardless of whether it’s old or new: “I’m very curious and I love to hear all kinds of music, all kinds of recordings, and it’s just such an integral part of my life.”

With the exception of one work, Meyers collaborated with all of the composers and arrangers on Mirror in Mirror, named after a piece by Arvo Pärt. Meyers worked closely with Pärt when performing and recording several of his works. While rehearsing Fratres, also featured on this album, the composer asked why she was playing so fast. It was an illuminating moment for Meyers. “I had been killing myself trying to get the right tempo and then that was such a valuable lesson," Meyers muses. "Even though he wrote that tempo marking, it doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to follow it. It’s supposed to sound much more natural and relaxed.”

Another work on the album has a very personal connection; John Corigliano’s Lullaby for Natalie was written to commemorate the birth of Meyers’ first daughter. It quickly became a regular in the Meyers household. She says, “Natalie and I listen to it every other night. My younger daughter, Andie, has claimed Mirror in Mirror as her lullaby!”

Meyers introduces us to an incredible young talent she discovered online — Jakub Ciupiński, a Polish composer living in New York City, whose music is often associated with electronics. He has made an arrangement of Edo Lullaby, a song that Meyers’ mother would sing to her and her sister as children. Meyers also performs Ciupiński’s Wreck of the Umbria, which is one of her favorite pieces. She says it always leaves audiences profoundly moved.

The final work on the album is a testament to perserverance. Meyers had been asking American composer Morten Lauridsen to write a violin concerto for several years. She knew he was in-demand but learned just how much when he jokingly responded, “Get in the back of the line! I’ve got four hundred commissions to deal with.” Things soon changed when Lauridsen heard Meyers’ riveting performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Despite his heavy workload, Lauridsen said he wanted to collaborate somehow. The happy medium turned out to be an arrangement of his popular choral piece O magnum mysterium for violin with piano or orchestra. She describes it as “music that lifts one’s spirit, transcends time, and is majestic.”

Meyers acknowledges that learning so much new music requires a huge amount of time and dedication, but she has never been one to step away from a challenge. She feels it’s an important part of her own DNA to leave a legacy for the next generation of violinists. “There’s a soul to each piece of music that gets written. I feel so fortunate to be a kind of seeker, finding the heart and the soul of the music, and sharing it with audiences around the world.”

(The interview featured in this story was conducted by Stephen Raskauskas.)